SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Christmas continues in spirit

The first few days of each New Year are usually focused on trying to get things back to “normal” after a busy and festive holiday season.
I also find myself reflecting on the past year and sometimes making some resolutions about how I want things to be different in the new year.
My resolutions usually relate to things like getting more exercise, learning something new, or spending more time on what really matters.
I know these resolutions can be good things as I try to refocus, prioritize, and do better.
I also know the most important thing for me as I begin each new year is to open my life again to God’s love and grace, so I can become more what God wants me to be.
So as I begin 2018 I am taking some time to pause and pray and reflect about my life, my priorities, my purpose, my relationships, and my faith in God.
I am also trying to not move on too quickly from Christmas, and all that it means, even though our decorations will soon be put away.
One thing I really dislike doing after Christmas is putting our manger scene away – especially packing the baby Jesus into a cold, dark box.
Somehow it just doesn’t seem right.
A number of years ago we began a family tradition of leaving the baby Jesus out all year. Then, we move him around the rooms of our house throughout the year.
It’s fun because we never know where he will turn up. It is also a much-needed reminder Jesus is with us each and every day, in each and every room of our life, no matter what we are doing or what is happening in our lives.
In this way the Good News of Christmas is present in our home all year.
Something else I am always struck by after Christmas is how much time we spend getting ready to celebrate the birth of the baby we tend to forget that the real work begins when you bring the baby home.
Anyone who has ever had children knows what I mean. I believe the same is true for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday if we really take it seriously.
Even though Christmas Day is past I am choosing to reflect on this question: “Is Christmas over, or has the real work just begun?”
I am reminded of one my favorite poems by theologian and writer Howard Thurman called “The Work of Christmas.”
It seems particularly relevant this year as we face together these challenging times:
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.”
My hope and prayer for you and me is we live each day in this new year with Christmas in our hearts and lives.
And, one more thing, I saw a little joke recently that said, “Beat the Christmas rush, come to church today.” A good word for a new year and another way to live like its still Christmas – all are welcome in God’s house every day.
The Rev. Jonathan Heierman is pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church

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